The history of Jethro’s BBQ. The 24 steps Jethro took to make history.
Step #1 - Learning
As the legend of Jethro's BBQ grows you must travel back in time to understand why and how a BBQ restaurant in Des Moines, Iowa has become "World Famous" in just five short years.
The creator, founder and owner of Jethro's, Bruce Gerleman began his career with a marketing degree from Wichita State University. He used that degree to garner a marketing position selling mattresses and sofas by the truckload to retail furniture stores. He became the top mattress salesman in the country as he put together media campaigns to promote his products and then trained the store's sales staff in the art of sales. He used the money he made to buy apartment buildings with a goal of buying at least one per year. At 26, he owned enough apartments to quit the mattress job and because of important tax law incentives he began working full time saving historic buildings. He bought historic mansions, warehouses, train stations, abandoned hotels and renovated them according to the US Department of Interior's standards for Certified Historic Renovations. The process was very detailed work, but it was profitable. He eventually brought back to life and converted over 20 buildings into office buildings, retail centers and restaurants in the Court Avenue District and Grand Avenue areas of Des Moines. One of his projects was the eleven story International Trade Center of Iowa, a member of the World Trade Center Association. The building was Iowa's first smart building and is still the fiber optic hub for the State today. His attention to detail and flair for design earned him a national reputation as he accomplished other renovation projects in Wichita, Savannah, Key Largo, Florida and Denver. The Iowa Jaycees named Bruce the 1986 "Young Iowan of the Year"
Step #2 - Doing
The year was 1998. Bruce decided that what Des Moines needed was a fine dining fresh seafood restaurant. He opened Splash Seafood Bar & Grill in his Historic Homestead Building at 3rd and Locust. Splash serves jet fresh seafood flown in from Hawaii, Seattle and Boston and features one of the Midwest's premier wine lists. Splash has gained a national reputation as a destination for foodies that enjoy fine dining, superb service and some of the most innovative seafood preparations found anywhere between the coasts. Featuring the same attention to detail that ensured the success of his Historic Renovation projects, Splash has been awarded the WINE SPECTATOR AWARD OF EXCELLENCE fourteen consecutive years and the DISTINGUISHED RESTAURANTS OF NORTH AMERICA AWARD six consecutive years.
In the year 2007, the Splash Oyster Bar was built in the Homestead Building. The restaurant features oysters caught in the cold, clear waters of the Pacific Northwest and Prince Edward Island. The Oyster Bar also offers the largest selection in the Midwest of caviars from around the world. It is Iowa's first and only Oyster/Caviar Bar.
Step #3 - Searching
With this background, Bruce's youngest daughter Anna, moved to Austin, Texas to go to school and to eventually become a neonatal flight nurse. While visiting Anna, they ate at many of the famous BBQ restaurants throughout Texas. After one such trip, he returned to Des Moines and said to Splash Chef, Dominic Iannarelli, "we should open a BBQ restaurant". Within three days, Bruce made an offer to buy Thode's Sporting Goods, a historic brick building next to the Drake campus and then began the process of getting the necessary permits to open a new restaurant. Drake University had designs of their own on that site as they wanted to construct a new entryway into campus. After battling each other for over a year in various public hearings, zoning board meetings and with the threat of district court looming, a compromise was reached at a meeting wherein the University agreed to trade their building at 3100 Forest Avenue that housed the Des Moines Police Department to Bruce, in exchange for the Thode's building.
Finally, with a location now secure Bruce and Dominic began the process of conceptualizing a restaurant unlike any other in the country. A 25mile bicycle ride was the incubator that produced the name. As Bruce cycled along, he knew he was searching for a strong, one-word name, catchy, but not necessarily food related, a name that would stick in people's minds and tell a bigger story. A name that would be easy to remember and difficult to forget. A name that said so much, but actually said so little. As he cycled along, he cycled through a list of potential names... Cookies, Daisy Mays, Hollywood's, Rowdy's, and then...when the name Jethro popped into his head, the search for a name was over!
Step #4 - Smokin!
The purchase of a 750 lb. capacity wood fired smoker inspired Dominic to begin testing dozens of different recipes and BBQ rub sauces. Week after week went by as these recipes were perfected and tested on Splash employees and customers. In the Splash kitchen were born all of the amazing recipes for the side dishes that are made from scratch daily. They are the homemade recipes that make Jethro's food so delicious. The motto of Jethro was born in those early days, as he promised himself that he would always serve large portions of his 'Amazing Slow Smoked Meats' and that he would never, ever, serve food from a can.
Meanwhile, on February 1, 2008 the Police Department had moved out and Bruce began reconstructing the building. The design goal was to capture the feeling of eating in a barn. The entertainment goal was to provide a “rock n' roll” sports bar with enough big screen TV's and satellites so that Jethro could watch every NFL game being played in the nation at one time. The service goal was to capture that feeling of eating around the campfire on a cattle drive in the 1880's... The colorful metal plates and cups were carefully chosen to replicate the sounds and appearance of that era. The construction of the restaurant was completed in a world record 78 days. Blake Wenzel was named the first general manager of Jethro's BBQ and he along with Smoke Master, Mike Booth, opened Jethro's BBQ at 3100 Forest Avenue on April 20, 2008, just in time for the 99th running of the Drake Relays. "Jethro's, Your Drake Neighborhood Sports Bar", had been brought to life.
Step #5 - Negotiating
Jethro's was an instant success. So much so, that in the fall of 2008 CBS came calling. CBS in New York City had heard of a new restaurant in Des Moines named Jethro's BBQ. CBS thought they owned the name Jethro. As it turned out, Jethro's BBQ had incorporated in the State of Iowa and registered their trade name. The rest of this Story has been intentionally left blank.
Step #6 - Partnering
Jethro has a rule that he doesn't have partners or do partnerships, but he broke his own rule when he became a strong partner of Drake University and Drake Athletics. Jethro loves the Bulldogs. As a sign of his affection, he had a large blimp built with his name and the Drake Bulldog logo on it. The blimp flies around inside the arena for all Drake sporting activities and drops coupons on the hungry students and fans. The students love Jethro's! As a sign of their affection, they wear blue t-shirts to all the games with the Drake logo on the front and a picture of Jethro along with one of his many sayings on the back, i.e.
Jethro Says... ”Make sure your brain is running before putting your mouth in gear.”
Jethro Says... ”A laugh and a smile, are worth a mile.”
Jethro Says... “Let your enthusiasm explode into passion.”
Jethro Says... “Empty wagons make the most noise.”
Jethro Says... “Still water runs deep.”
Jethro Says... “Cease to complain.”
Jethro Says... “Excuses are like armpits, they all stink.”
Jethro Says... “Inches make a champion.”
Jethro Says... “Life is order on the edge of chaos.”
Jethro Says... “Quality is economy.”
Jethro Says... “There is never a right way to do the wrong thing.”
Jethro Says... “It is easier to lose, than to win.”
Step #7 - Marketing & Man vs. Food
On another day in 2008, Jethro's BBQ learned it had been chosen as one the 100 BEST BBQ RESTAURANTS IN AMERICA. A book had been written about all of the great BBQ restaurants in the country, included in the book was the story of Jethro's BBQ, in Des Moines, not yet even one year old.
On a day in 2009, Jethro opened BETTER HOMES AND GARDENS MAGAZINE and found out he had been chosen as it's favorite BBQ sandwich. That was the day the 'Better Homes and Garden Melt Sandwich' was born, and enshrined on the menu.
One day in 2010, a man named Adam Richman from Travel Channel's MAN VS. FOOD show called and said he wanted to take the 'ADAM EMMENECKER CHALLENGE' on national TV. The 5 pound sandwich was created in honor of the famous Drake basketball player who led the school to the NCAA “Big Dance” in 2008. Adam Emmenecker sat down with the menu and chose all of his favorite foods. Chef Dominic then built Adam's favorites into the delicious, award winning sandwich that has become known worldwide. The show aired in October of 2010 to a national TV audience. Adam Richman could not eat the sandwich in 15 minutes and 'Failed the Challenge'. Overnight, the sandwich gained international immortality! Families, food eaters, contestants and large groups of people travel from across the country and the world to Des Moines to attempt the Adam Emmenecker Challenge. Recently, a group of 20 traveled from the Ukraine to take 'The Challenge' as they crossed the country on a competitive food eating binge. THEY All FAILED! As of this writing, there have been only 13 that have conquered “The Challenge”, and there have be thousands that have tried. Pictures of the 13 have been enshrined onto the “Wall of Fame,” pictures of the failures are posted in the restaurants on the “Wall of Shame”.
Within a month or so, President Obama called Jethro and asked him to cater a backyard BBQ for some of his close friends here in Des Moines. Jethro opened up his kitchens and shared his secret recipes to the Secret Service as they inspected and tasted the food to make sure that it was delicious and poison free. Everyone had a great time at the party, and Jethro was proud as he watched the helicopters flying overhead and the ninja dressed snipers hiding in the trees, as they made sure everyone behaved themselves, while the guest munched on the food, at The President's Backyard BBQ.
Step #8 - Growing
It was a charity fundraising event, in the spring of 2010, that brought Bruce to Prairie Meadows horse track and casino for a Make A Wish event in Altoona. As he drove out of the parking lot, he looked across the street to see a vacant Godfather's Pizza for sale. Within 3 days, he made an offer to buy the building. On June 3rd, 2010 reconstruction of the building into Jethro n' Jake's Smokehouse Steaks began. Bruce knew he didn't want to open another restaurant with a menu exactly like Jethro's. He did not want to compete with himself; he wanted something that would set this restaurant apart, make it different so that he could cross market and give his customers a reason to come to Jethro and Jake's. The unique idea for smoked steaks was born. Chef Dominic learned to slowly smoke the steaks over hickory and oak wood at a 90-degree temperature, without actually cooking the meat. The process gives the meat that smoky campfire goodness, but yet, Dominic can still broil the steak to your perfection on his Jethro n' Jake's Fire Machine: rare, medium rare, medium or well done. Jethro n' Jake's Smokehouse Steaks, now in Altoona, still at Drake, opened 95 days later on September 6, 2010, proud to be the only restaurant in Iowa serving Campfire Smoked Black Angus Steaks. “Jethro n' Jake's Smokehouse Steaks, Your Altoona Neighborhood Sports Bar” was born.
Step #9 - ESPN
Time passed...and in the spring of 2011, ESPN Sports called Jethro's to inform him that THE ADAM EMMENECKER CHALLENGE had been nominated as the 'National Fanwich of the Year'. Jethro's had been asked to compete with over 100 other sandwiches from around the nation, in a contest to determine the best and most famous sports sandwich in the country. The Tiger Woods, the Lebron James, the Bo Jackson, the Zach Johnson, the Jim Rome and the Ben Roethlisburger were all in the competition. THE ADAM EMMENECKER jumped into the lead after the first week of voting and never looked back. Jethro's was leading the Nation in voting and making headlines throughout the Midwest. Jethro's was enjoying 1,000 vote lead in the contest with three days left in the voting and then it happened! The restaurant and sandwich named after San Fransisco Giant pitcher, no hit throwing wonder, Matt Cain offered their customers two free sandwiches for every one sandwich they purchased, only if they brought along two friends and all voted. In the final three days, Jethro's lost his 1,000-vote lead and ended as the 'National Fanwich Runner Up', losing by 1,000 votes.
Step #10 - Go West Young Man
Meanwhile, Bruce had been scouting the Western suburbs of Des Moines searching for another spot where there weren't any other restaurants. Jethro always thinks it is smarter to build a restaurant where there isn't any other. A lease was signed on August 9, 2011, for the building at 9350 University in West Des Moines. Construction of Jethro's Jambalaya began the next day. An interesting national media story developed during the construction of the new restaurant as the old, used soybean oil from the kitchen fryers of Jethro's was converted into bio-diesel and then it fueled the construction equipment building the restaurant. As always, Bruce envisioned something unique that would set this new restaurant apart. Chef Dominic began the work of creating his very own 'Cajun Creole Creations'. Once again, the palates of the staffs at Splash and Jethro's were put to the test, as they sampled and tested plate after plate of Jambalaya, Red Beans n' Rice, Crawfish Etouffe, Spicy Chicken, Sausage Gumbo and Crispy Fried Alligator. The Team's taste buds helped perfect the recipes. “Jethro's Jambalaya, Your Waukee Neighborhood Sports Bar”, opened on December 6, 2011. The new restaurant served over 10,000 people in the first week, and then it got busy. Jethro's Jambalaya Your Waukee Neighborhood Sports Bar.
Step #11 - Manliest In The Midwest
While all of this was going on, MENS HEALTH MAGAZINE called one day to announce that Jethro's BBQ had been nominated as one of the finalist for 'The Manliest Restaurant in the Midwest'. Jethro's would compete for the crown against four other semi-finalists from Kansas City, Chicago, Minneapolis and Nebraska. Readers and subscribers from around the country were choosing the 'Manliest Restaurant' in each region of nation. Over the next thirty days the votes rolled in, the fans and customers of Jethro's organized, tweeted, posted, texted and voted to win the day and win the election. The December 2011 issue of MENS HEALTH MAGAZINE officially named Jethro's BBQ as 'The Manliest Restaurant in the Midwest'. When the editors called from New York City to interview Jethro, they asked, “what makes Jethro's so Manly”? Jethro thought for a moment and answered...“ Jethro helps bring order to the chaos, that is the life, of the modern American man”
On December 6, 2011, with the title of 'Manliest Restaurant in the Midwest' firmly in hand, Jethro sat back and turned on his big screen TV to watch 'THE FOOD PARADISE SHOW' on THE TRAVEL CHANNEL. The premiere of the show was coincidentally on the same day that Jethro's Jambalaya opened for business. It seems like there have been a lot of coincidences in the world of Jethro. The one hour special previewed the nine regional winners and then announced the winner of 'The Manliest Restaurant in the Nation'. It was an incredible honor for Jethro's BBQ to be listed among the nation's elite, historic restaurants. But for Jethro's, the other nine regional winners were all traditional, long established institutions that have been in business for decades or even a century. Jethro's is just a toddler in comparison. When Primanti Brothers from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania was awarded 'The Manliest Restaurant in the Nation', Bruce clapped his hands and then wrote the Brothers a note of congratulations, as he loves their sandwiches and pizzas. Meanwhile, Jethro was so proud of his new title that he wrote the United States Office of Patents and Copyright and officially copyrighted the phrase, “MANLY MONDAYS”. Now men can come to Jethro's on Mondays and enjoy Manly offerings created especially for Manly Men.
The year 2012 brought more awards and honors to Jethro's as CITYVIEW READERS voted Jethro's the Best BBQ in the City and for the first time ever, the Best Nachos in the City. But, the award that really excited Jethro was from the people of Des Moines, who voted his Wings, the Best in the City, for the third consecutive year. In fact, Jethro's wings have become so popular and so many hungry people clamor for that wonderful, smoky taste, that Jethro decided to “come out” and go 'Bi-Wingual'. That's right! Jethro is now “Bi-Wingual!” Jethro has added Boneless Wings to his menu. Now you can enjoy them at all Jethro's locations, Two for One Wings on Tuesdays and half price Boneless Wings on Thursdays. In the fall of that year, Chef Dominic Iannnarelli was named Chef of the Year by Cityview Magazine, and THE IOWA RESTAURANT ASSOCIATION named Bruce Gerleman the Iowa Restaurateur of the Year.
Step #12 - Going North to Ankeny
The story continues...one night, as Jethro slep...he dreamed of a paradise where his family lived and fished every day on a lake full of walleye. Jethro awoke, and began exploring the north woods. His dream soon came true as he discovered a secluded lake, built his dream house, shot a moose, elk and mountain lion, then opened the doors to his very own Lake House, “Going North to Ankeny, going North the rush is on”. Jethro's Lake House opened in fast growing, booming Ankeny in December 2012.
The 7,200 square foot Lake House is the first restaurant that Bruce has ever built from the ground up. As a matter of fact, when construction of the building began in the Ankeny Prairie Trail City Center subdivision, there were no roads, there were no utilities. It was a big field of prairie grass. Bruce was so excited with the opportunity and location that he traveled to the Georgetown district of Washington D.C. There, he researched the design and construction techniques of the historic brick buildings built in the late 1700's. Why? Because Jethro's Lake House anchors the new City Center. The development will eventually include the new Ankeny City Hall, Library and over 500,000 square feet of office and retail space. Since Ankeny is a sprawling new suburb that sprang up almost overnight, there are no historic buildings to help the City retain an architectural connection and bridge to it's past. Bruce has designed the Lake House to recall those historic buildings he saw in Georgetown that had been built and added onto through the decades. Thus, two distinctly different patios overlook a six-acre lake built around a beautiful fire pit and community gathering area that all connect to a walking trail circling the lake. The 316 seat Lake House is the most spectacular and beautiful of all the Jethro's. Once again, Jethro has found a location where there aren't any other restaurants. Once again, Bruce has created a new restaurant with its own identity, as the Lake House features shrimp and salmon along with our World-Famous BBQ and 'Cajun Creole Creations'. “Jethro's Lake House Your Ankeny Neighborhood Sports Bar”.
Step #13 - The Discovery Channel
January of 2013 brought more national and international exposure to Jethro's, as THE DISCOVERY CHANNEL premiered their new series titled “The United States of Bacon”. To kick off the new season camera crews came to the heart of bacon country, Des Moines, Iowa and featured the Jethro Sandwich at the Jethro's Jambalaya location. Once again Jethro was in the National Spotlight as millions of viewers tuned in to see the beautiful skyline of Downtown Des Moines with Jethro's BBQ superimposed. The Jethro Sandwich starts with our huge, big as a platter, pounded pork tenderloin, add a ½ pound of pulled pork, add a ½ pound of cherry smoked ham and top it all with 4 slabs of thick cut bacon. The sandwich is “Porktastic”. The show brought viewers behind the scenes, deep into our kitchen to watch our chefs prepare this delicious bacon and pork treat. Sales of the Jethro Sandwich doubled in the months following the premier.
On another day, Bruce's phone rang and it was Jethro Bodine calling. That's right, Max Baer Junior the actor who had starred and played Jethro in the TV show had heard about Jethro's BBQ in Des Moines, Iowa. Max had heard all the commotion about Jethro's all the way out on the West Coast. Max was a very nice man as he invited Bruce to come out, look around and visit, so Bruce loaded up his bag and headed to Beverly Hills. There Bruce found swimming pools, movie stars and a land of opportunity as there just are not any restaurants quite like Jethro's BBQ in Southern California.
The year 2013 also brought more awards and honors as the readers of Cityview voted Jethro's tops in 7 different categories. At the awards ceremony the Jethro managers took home trophies for The Best BBQ, Best Wings, Best Nachos, Best Sports Bar, Best Onion Rings, Best American Food, Best Family Restaurant, Best Wait Staff and Best Restaurant.
Step #14 - One Amazing Woman! World Eating Champion!
Molly Schulyler, all 5'5”, 120 pounds of her, electrified the State of Iowa when she crossed the border from her native Bellevue, Nebraska into Iowa to take on the Adam Emmenecker Challenge. The Challenge of course is to eat the 5-pound sandwich and waffle fries in 15 minutes or less. Thousands had tried, only 11 men had succeeded at the time, before Molly became the first woman to devour this monster. Not only did she do it once, she did it four times. In a 10 day period, with an accompanying media entourage and frenzy, she took the Challenge, ate the sandwich and set the record at each of the 4 Jethro's locations. At Jethro's BBQ her time was 7 minutes 38 seconds, at Jethro's Jambalaya her time was 7 minutes 42 seconds, at Jethro's Lake House her time was 7 minutes 56 seconds and at Jethro's Smokehouse Steaks she established a new world record of 7 minutes and 8 second before 100's of her cheering fans. Then, in early January 2014, at the opening of the Pork Chop Grill Molly returned to claim a $1,000 prize as she shattered her previous world record and devoured the Challenge in 4 minutes and 40 seconds in front national media and 100's more of her cheering fans. Finally, at the new Jethro's Bacon Bacon in West Des Moines in February of 2016 after months of training Molly crushed the record in a time of 2minutes and 55 seconds, earning another $1,000 prize. Molly's extraordinary feat prompted Bruce to raise the bar. If anyone can break Molly's world record there is a $10,000 prize for doing so.
Step #15 - The Pork Chop Grill
There are over 21,000,000 pigs in Iowa and more than 6,000 restaurants. Not one of those restaurants has ever paid homage to the pig the way in which the new Jethro's BBQ n' Pork Chop Grill does. Ground was broken on the new Pork Chop Grill in July of 2013. The new 6,500 square foot restaurant features pork chops from Iowa. There is the State Fair Pork Chop, fried pork chops, smoked pork chops, pork chops on a stick, shake and bake pork chops, stuffed pork chops, blackened pork chops, a pork chop sandwich, a pork chop salad, pork chops for breakfast, pork chops for lunch, pork chops for dinner. There will be no chopped pork suey. Jethro even wrote a pork chop cheer. That's right, a Pork Chop Cheer, here it is... Pork Chop, Pork Chop, yours is greasy... we'll beat your Chop, Easy, Easy! The 265 seat restaurant will also feature Jethro's first wood fired grill. The flames and smoke from this fire machine will make things exciting as it will give the steaks and chops that campfire cooked taste. Also for the kitchen, Jethro has purchased two, 900 pound capacity smokers. Here, he can serve you all of his “Amazing Slow Smoked Meats” that have made him World Famous. As you read this, Chef Dominic and his team of chefs are hard at work experimenting, testing and creating the new flavors and recipes that will make your mouth water. The restaurant was under construction at 5950 86th Street in Johnston when a freak storm packing 80 MPH winds blew through the town and scattered the framing lumber like “pick up sticks”. Insurance covered the damage, but the storm delayed the restaurant several weeks. Jethro's Pork Chop Grill opened on December 26, 2013. Once again Jethro had found a location where there are no other restaurants and Bruce has created a unique twist to his fine dining, BBQ, rock and roll sports bar concept. Our wonderful friends and guests are now able to enjoy another Jethro's with its very own specialty and identity. We are excited to welcome you to “Jethro's Pork Chop Grill, your Johnston Neighborhood Sports Bar”.
Step #16 - Hollywood Calls
Swimming pools, movie stars, Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills it all came true to life for Jethro when William Shatner (AKA Captain Kirk) (Beam me up Scotty) (Starship Enterprise) called and invited Bruce and Chef Dom to be on his new TV show “Moving America Forward”. Mr. Shatner's Show spotlights entrepreneurs that have prospered and helped move America forward during the midst of the great recession. Staying poolside at the Beverly Hills Hilton, hanging out with the Housewives of Beverly Hills in their poolside cabanas got Jethro excited. The Rolls Royce limousines with gold grills were gaudy and made Jethro feel funny. It was an eye-opening experience as the boys from Iowa were called to the make- up room, dressed in their best flannel shirts and prepped on the art of movie making. The show was produced in one afternoon and features Mr. Shatner and Judge Wampler from People's Court and Judge Judy fame interviewing Bruce and Dom as they tell the story of Jethro success and explain the fact that Jethro is now the largest independent purchaser of pork in the State of Iowa. He buys in excess of 1,800,000 pounds per year. He also is the largest independent purchaser of soybean oil in the State of Iowa. Bruce and Dom invited Mr. Shatner to visit Iowa and he agreed to come visit in the summer of 2015 for a big party!
Step #17 - Bacon Bacon (Bacon by the ton)
No, you are not seeing double. October of 2014 brought the opening of Jethro's BBQ n' Bacon Bacon in West Des Moines. The newest Jethro's serves our wonderful BBQ and Breakfast Always. The menu features Buckets of Bacon, Triple Bacon Burgers, Bacon wrapped ribs, tator tot casserole and fresh orange juice is squeezed before your eyes in the amazing “Squeezerator”. Do you like your bacon crispy or squiggly? Jethro has discovered that Iowan's are evenly split, just like the politics in our State. Nothing goes better with BBQ and Bacon than Bourbon or Blood Mary's. Bruce and Chef Dom dreamed of developing this concept for several years before they found this perfect, centrally located spot at 1480 22nd Street in West Des Moines (formerly home to Hooters). As the menu reads ...”one night as Jethro listened to a far off owl “Hooting” his haunting cry, he followed the sound and found what he was searching for...the most convenient spot in the metro to build Bacon Bacon, his homage to breakfast.” Bruce ripped and tore everything out of the building including the sewers, plumbing, kitchen, electrical, walls, floor and ceilings. He then sterilized the building inside and out. Now it looks just like all the other Jethro's with 22 bigger screened TV's to make it a fun sports bar with rock and roll too. The 6,800 square foot building seats 260, including a private party room that seats 80 and a retail Bacon store that sells all things Bacony. Jethro sells his very own hickory and cherry wood smoked, thick cut bacon for you to take home. In the first two months of being open Jethro's Bacon Bacon served over 5 tons of delicious Bacon. Jethro's Bacon Bacon your West Des Moines Neighborhood Sports bar.
Step #18 - OH OH!
There is never a dull moment in the world of Jethro. Just after Bacon Bacon opened, and just when the restaurant business was settling back down, all seemed to be in order when Jethro's BBQ became the number one story in Hollywood and Beverly Hills. In the lead story for the TMZ Entertainment Network, they reported that Max Baer Jr., the actor who starred in a television show had filed a lawsuit against CBS in New York City. The lawsuit claims that CBS made a “secret deal” with Jethro's BBQ in Des Moines. And, this “secret deal” ultimately diminished the value of property rights that Max Baer Jr. had negotiated away from CBS back in 1991. Bruce was vacationing on Gilligan's Island in the Caribbean when the TMZ found him and asked about the “secret deal”. He replied, “As Sergeant Shultz said, I know nothing...I do have an agreement with CBS, it is not a “secret deal” though, I just cannot talk about it”. As reported on WHO radio's Jan Mickelson show, the first known reference on our planet to a man named Jethro was in the OLD TESTAMENT. It seems Jethro married one of the daughters of Moses and spent the rest of his days as his son in law, procreating and helping Moses lead the Jews to the “Promised Land”. There are 9 different references to the good works of Jethro in the OLD TESTAMENT, proving once again that it's not what you know, but who you know and you always want to stay on the good side of the people who buy their ink by the barrel. Yes, stay tuned, as The Des Moines Register also made the lawsuit their #1 front page story. It appeared there would be much more of this to come in 2016 and beyond... as Jethro found himself involved in a battle between Hollywood Vs. New York City, with Des Moines stuck in the middle. Who knew?
Step #19 - Ames
2017 brings a new chapter in the life of Jethro. Bruce had been searching in Ames for several years to find a new home for Jethro. Ames is of course home to Iowa State University and a lot of rabid Cyclone sports fans. What better city than to build the largest sports bar in the Big 12 Conference. Bruce purchased the former Aldi's grocery store next to the movie theaters on South Duff Avenue. The 16,000 square foot building has been converted into a new Jethro's BBQ featuring all of our famous “Amazing Slow Smoked Meats”. The restaurant features a giant banquet room that seats over 300 for private parties, as well as an arcade. There is nothing else like it in Ames. Bruce is really proud of his giant parking lot that makes it easy for people to come and go. There are over 30 big screen TV's so Cyclone fans can watch all of their games. There is lots of rock and roll music so the Cyclone fans can get their groove on too. Patience is his virtue. Jethro searched for years to find the perfect spot to grow in Cyclone Country. Finally, a store with vittles was bought and Ames welcomed the largest sports bar in the Big 12 Conference in August of 2017. Jethro's BBQ, Your Cyclone Neighborhood Sports Bar.
Jethro was proud to have been voted the best BBQ and the best Wings in Des Moines by readers of Cityview in 2017. Jethro was also a finalist in the voting for best Nachos, best Ribs, best Onion Rings, best Wait Staff, best Tenderloin, best Drake restaurant and best American Restaurant. Thank you to our loyal guests and Cousins. If you do not have a Cousin Card yet, get one today. Lots of free food and rewards for our Cousins.
Step #20 - Jethro's BBQ Southside & Big Foot Burger Bar
One day Jethro was speed reading his newspaper and saw that Orlando's Pizza, located on the Great Western Bike Trail was going out of business. The building was for sale with an asking price of $450,000. The building was small and in poor shape but the 1.25-acre site located on the bike trail made it the perfect spot. The owners of the property were taking sealed bids, 9 or 10 local restaurant groups were vying to purchase this premier corner. Jethro is a biker. He thinks best on his bike. RAGBRAI is his favorite. So, Jethro jumped on his bike, pedaled and thought, pedaled and thought some more and finally came up with his plan. The winning bid of $500,000 was a fair price to pay for this amazing location. Construction began on the new Jethro's Southside in August of 2019. The first work on the property was to drain the low lying swamp and haul in 90 semi-loads of dirt to raise the site out of the flood plain. Swarms of mosquitoes had forever plagued Orlando's. Jethro got to work and built a 6,900 square foot restaurant that was proudly labeled a “Southside Palace” by members of the Des Moines City Council. The “Palace” is complete with white leather cushions, Italian mosaic tile floors, garage doors opening onto a party patio, fire pit and bicycle rack parking for over 100. Jethro invited his friend “Bigfoot” down to the Southside too. Mythology prevails. So as always, Jethro serves his famous “slow smoked meats” at the Southside while he features the unique specialty of the “Big Foot Burger Bar”. So build your own burger or enjoy the gourmet burgers that only “Big Foot” mythology can serve up. Jethro's BBQ Southside opened in May of 2020 in spite of the raging COVID epidemic.
Step #21 - Downtown Iowa Events Center
December of 2021 brought the cold winter winds to Jethro's BBQ near Drake University... the first ever Jethro's... “The Original”. The location had been open since 2008 and the kitchen needed fixin'. So the restaurant was closed for remodeling. The plan was to reopen in the spring for March Madness. The remodel was almost complete when in February 2022... it happened! Fate happened! A two story, 7,000 square foot office building in Downtown across the street from Wells Fargo Arena and The Iowa Events Center was put up for sale. It was the ultimate best Location, Location, Location! Jethro moved fast! Within a few days he had negotiated a purchase price and the property at 221 Park Street was under contract. The new Jethro's BBQ All Stars will be the closest restaurant to the Iowa Events Center. Construction has started and the new Downtown location will open sometime in the summer of 2023. However, this Downtown location is only a few short miles from the Jethro's Drake location, so sadly the decision was made to permanently close Drake and concentrate on making Jethro's All Stars world famous too. Jethro's BBQ All Stars, your Downtown Neighborhood Sports Bar.
Step #22 - Inside Edition/More Fame/More Awards
The people of Iowa have spoken! In 2022, the readers of the Des Moines Register voted Jethro's wings and BBQ the best in the City, while the readers of Cityview magazine have voted Jethro's wings the best in the City for 15 consecutive years. The television show Inside Edition featured Jethro's wings on their “Eat This Not That” segment and named Jethro's wings the Best in Iowa. What is the secret that makes Jethro's wings so delicious? Jethro is the largest seller of wings in Iowa. He serves only the largest, plumpest premium wing available. Jethro then slow smokes his wings over hickory and oak wood for 2 hours. The wing is totally cooked and then when you order it... Jethro flash fries it so that it is crispy on the outside but tender and juicy on the inside. Yummy!
Step #23 - Iowa City
Over the last 10 years Jethro explored many options to open a restaurant in the Iowa City area. He looked carefully at the former Bennigans restaurant in the Coralville Mall. Considered a spot next to Menards on the West Side. Thought a lot about a place on the Southside on 218. Investigated the Ped Mall and Downtown. None of these locations tripped his trigger. He knows that patience is a virtue and discernment is one of his most important assets. Finally, in November of 2022 a late afternoon phone call jolted Jethro out of his porch swing and he swung into action. The owner of Old Chicago Pizza was retiring and his building on the Coralville strip was being offered for sale. Jethro was truly excited and knew instantly that this was the location he wanted. Jethro made a full price offer within 2 hours of the phone call. However, competition for the site was extreme as several national retailers valued this location on the busiest street in all of Johnson County. Thankfully, the owner had always dreamed about recruiting Jethro's BBQ to Iowa City and a good deal for all was made. Construction is now underway for the new Jethro's BBQ n' Jake's Smokehouse Steaks at 75 2nd Street, Coralville. The restaurant is across the street from the University of Iowa Baseball and Softball complex and the Hawkeye Track and Field Stadium. We will welcome you to your Hawkeye Neighborhood Sports Bar in May of 2023.
Step #24 - Which is it? The Service or The Food?
Why has Jethro's been so successful? How did he grow from 0 to 900 employees in the last 15 years? How did he survive the Great Recession of 2008/2009? How did he endure the COVID pandemic of 2020/2021? Is it the delicious food with oversized portions? Or, is it the great service? Which is it? What is it? It is both! It is the Team of people that greet you at the front door when you come for the fun, the familiarity, the food and the family that is Jethro's. Bruce was and has always been an athlete and a coach. A coach teaches, a coach leads, a coach inspires, a coach fights for his Team, a coach rewards. Jethro's provides 80% health care for all of its managers and hourly employees. Today that health care plan exceeds all requirements of Obama Care. All work and no play just does not work… so managers are scheduled for a 5 day work week. Managers also share in a generous monthly profit sharing plan. The made from scratch recipes and the generous portions of “Amazing Slow Smoked Meats” served promptly, in a family friendly atmosphere reward our guests daily and consistently with incredible value. The array of sporting games and events on the many big screen TV's entertain… all the while the rock and roll music playing in the background makes for a toe tapping, high energy good time. All of this inspiration, execution and philosophy adds up to Jethro being the “Funmeister”. Please, always have fun at Jethro's BBQ, my gosh, we sure do. Thank you all for your support over the last fifteen years. Jethro is proud to be “Your Iowa Neighborhood Sports Bar.”
Remember Always: “Jethro brings order to the chaos that is the life of the modern American.“